Here’s how to track popular culture on the Web
IF you're ever curious what kinds of movies, videos, music and news people on the mainland and overseas interested in, I've got some great Web sites to spend time on.
This subject came to mind recently when I was reading a Star-Bulletin news item about Michelle Wie, who had collapsed from heat exhaustion at a recent golf tournament. It was obviously a big story here but it got me wondering how popular is Michelle was outside of Hawaii. Believe it or not, the answer was not hard to find.
With the Internet -- the tool of choice for doing research -- it's now possible to discover what interests people around the world. Several years ago Google came up with a new service called Zeitgeist which translates from the German roughly as "spirit of the times."
How does this service work? If you didn't know, Google actually logs (unless you tell it not to) every search you make. Thus it's possible to figure out what the most popular searches are based on the millions of queries conducted on Google users.
The results are fascinating.
You can start by going to www.google.com/press/zeitgeist.html and clicking on the "Zeitgeist this Week" link. This list in order of popularity included zidane, july 4th, pirates of the caribbean, benjamin hendrickson, ken lay, keira knightley, north korea, ufc, jack sparrow, H5N1, fabio cannavaro, orlando bloom, justin timberlake, laura l. findlay, and emmy nominations.
To be honest, I didn't know who all of the people in this list were, but with one click it was easy to find out that Jack Sparrow was the fictional pirate in a new movie and Benjamin Hendrickson was a soap opera star that recently died.
Zeitgeist offers a number of popularity lists such as top superheroes and even the most sought after images of pre-teen heroes. (For the record these were Pokeman, Winnie the Pooh, Spongebob, Sailor Moon and Mickey Mouse).
Zeitgeist also offers a window into what others around the world are looking at. If you want to know the most popular searches in Canada, Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore and a dozen other countries, the data is there. For example, Zeitgeist tells us that in Canada the number one search term last May was "American Idol." If you happen to see certain names jumping off the charts and you want to know the news behind the searches Google has a daily video blog called Google Current (www.current.tv/google) which provides "vlogs" on everything from hybrid cars to Paris Hilton.
Lycos also has a service similar to Zeitgeist called the Lycos 50 -- 50.lycos.com which provides in-depth reports on what surfers are looking for on the Lycos search engine and an excellent daily blog.
That brings us back to Michelle. According to Lycos 50, a lot of people around the world follow her closely. During the week of the World Cup Michelle, rated #3 on Lycos' top ten movers and shakers. Her rankings were up 245 percent, trailing only Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane. Not bad for a local girl!
One last tip of the week: If you want to turn off Google tracking, you can download Google Desktop and then right click on the icon. It gives you a "Pause Indexing" option for 15 minutes.
is general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org